Greetings from Goree Island Dakar Senegal at the ancient slave fortress outside the door of no return playing my flute for the spirit of my ancestors we are strong we survived and we return to Mother Africa to claim our heritage God Bless
–T.K.Blue Talib Kibwe
Happy New Year 2017 to everyone. I pray you all had a wonderful holiday season and I wish you a blessed new year. I was very fortunate to spend my holiday 2016 in Dakar, Senegal West Africa from Christmas Day until Tuesday January 10th. Africa is a very magical and mystical place where one can witness the origins of mankind and world culture. Africa is full of love, generosity, and sharing beyond measure. Often we only hear about negativity, disease, famine, terrorism, and war. However there are many, many positive aspects of life in African society that one can experience while visiting this incredible continent of aesthetic beauty.
Upon arrival I went to visit NEA Jazz Master Pianist Dr Randy Weston and his lovely Senegalese wife Fatou. They have a beautiful home in Mbao near the ocean about 30 minutes from downtown Dakar. I played on Friday night December 30th with a fantastic vocalist from the USA: Electra Weston–no relation to Randy. She performed at Hotel Keur Gainde’ Route du CVD Hann Marinas and was accompanied by a Senegalese trio. After I went to a very hip club called Just For You. They had a wonderful fashion show in progress and I must comment on how beautiful the African sisters were who participated. They all walked with an air of royalty and respect that echoed the aura of an African princess or queen from an ancient African Kingdom. After the fashion show I was honored to be invited on stage to perform with the legendary Senegalese musician/vocalist/drummer Cheikh Lo. I met Cheikh Lo last April 2016 in NYC when I performed with his band at NYU. I was very elated to play with him again.
I spent New Year’s Eve with the Weston family and later that evening I connected with my friends from the group Xalam, who were performing at a club called Surf Paradise. I met Xalam while I resided in Paris in the early 1980’s. We went on to perform and record together until the leader Abdoulaye (Propere) Niang suddenly passed from a rare form of cancer. I wrote a song dedicated to Prospere on my new CD Amour.
On January 1st new year’s day I joined the Weston family at the Sorano Theater in downtown Dakar for a stunning tribute to the Senegalese master musician and drummer Doudou Ndiaye Rose, who passed away earlier in 2016 at the age of 80. Doudou is a legend in Senegal and I was extremely fortunate to see him in performance over the years. Often he would perform with close to 100 drummers, most playing the sabar drum. His choreography and arrangements are superb and reign supreme in the pantheon of African drumming. I last saw Doudou at the 2010 Black Arts Festival in Dakar. My band performed at the Place De La Renaissance and Doudou was in attendance. The tribute honoring his legacy at the Sorano Theater echoed a grand celebration reminiscent of carnival or mardi gras. The brothers and sisters on stage and in the audience were dressed magnificently, adorned in a myriad of colors and African print fabrics. The elder women wore head wraps that would rival the lovely hats worn by African-American women on Easter Sunday! The saber drummers stole the show with their impeccable rhythms and precise arrangements. This show also featured a “griot” or African storyteller who pranced across the stage emitting words of praise and wisdom regarding our dear departed elder Doudou Ndiaye Rose. Often throughout the show, women from the audience would approach the stage to dance with the drummers or offer money to the performers, which is the custom in traditional African society. In essence it was truly a joyous tribute to a master musician!!!
While in Dakar I received word that my dear friend Abiodun Ayewole from the Last Poets was also in Dakar doing a video shoot for a new recording of poetry. I was hoping to connect with him despite not having any of his contact information. Sunday January 8th I visited the slave fortress on Goree Island. I arrived at the ferry terminal in Dakar to catch a 10am boat to Goree Island. To my wonderful surprise Abiodun was on the same ferry!! We connected and hung out on the island. I participated in his video shoot as I had my flute with me and it was a fantastic experience. Also featured on his new recording are a group of Senegalese brothers called Bideew Bou Bess–New Star In The Sky. They are three brothers who are incredible vocalists and musicians. They are certainly destined for stardom!
Before the video shoot on Goree, I visited the slave fortress. This was perhaps my fifth time here and I was thinking of what my ancestors had to endure being enslaved and treated like property. The elder curator for the fortress died about ten years ago. His replacement spoke very profoundly about the times of slavery and in particular this fortress with its “door of no return”. It’s quite sad to imagine that over the period of four centuries involving the transatlantic slave trade, close to 100 million Africans lives were lost. In fact for every one African that made it to America, The Caribbean, or South America, seven perished during the journey!!! I played a dedication to the spirit of my ancestors who made it to the Caribbean and those who lost their lives enduring a hardship that is unimaginable. I am alive today because of their ultimate sacrifice.
As mentioned Africa is a very beautiful place with a rich history and legacy of world culture. Quite often I hear traditional music that reminds me of the Blues, Samba, Bossa Nova, Reggae, Zouk, Calypso, Funk, and Afro-Cuban music with all its derivatives. Everywhere in Senegal I was greeted by strangers with “Na nga def”–How are you? Ana waa ker ga–How is your family? Jamm ak jamm—peace with peace….In addition I was invited constantly to the homes of folks to have food. Most share everything they have with you without waiting for a thank you. Everywhere I walked people greeted me with love and respect. They treated me as their brother and part of their family. When you thank your host for the wonderful hospitality the response is always “nee or ga buk”—you are welcome–please don’t thank me for this food as it comes from God and it’s for everyone!
I look forward to my next voyage “home” God Bless